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Privacy Group: Google Latitude Could Track Unsuspecting Users

Privacy International, a London-based advocacy group, has raised questions about Latitude, saying it could be used to track unsuspecting users.

Google released Google Latitude,

Privacy International, a London-based advocacy group, said Latitude can be used to track unsuspecting users.

"Latitude appears to present an immediate privacy threat," said Privacy International Thursday. "The danger arises when a second party can gain physical access to a user's phone and enables Latitude without the owner's knowledge."

The privacy watchdog said abuse of Latitude could result when an employer gives an employee a Latitude-enabled phone on which reciprocal information-sharing agreement has been enabled, but doesn't tell the employee, or when a person gains access to an unattended phone and enables Latitude without the user's knowledge.

Google introduced the application Wednesday. Latitude gives users the ability to "see if your spouse is stuck in traffic on the way home from work, notice that a buddy is in town for the weekend, or take comfort in knowing that a loved one's flight landed safely, despite bad weather," wrote Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering for Google's mobile team, in a Google blog. Privicay concerns were also addressed in the announcement.

"Fun aside, we recognize the sensitivity of location data, so we've built fine-grained privacy controls right into the application. Everything about Latitude is opt-in. You not only control exactly who gets to see your location, but you also decide the location that they see," Gundotra wrote.

But Privacy International is more concerned potentially sinister uses of the feature.

"As it stands right now, Latitude could be a gift to stalkers, prying employers, jealous partners and obsessive friends," the group said, somewhat dramatically. "The dangers to a user's privacy and security are as limitless as the imagination of those who would abuse this technology."

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